Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hunting for a Record

Imagine that my 7-year old daughter, JJ, is gifted in walking the tightrope. It's not something that I trained her to do, but she's just born with that natural talent. In fact, she's so damn good on the tightrope that she can practically dance on it blindfolded!

Now of course in a country like Malaysia, where almost everyone is pursuing all sorts of stunts to earn a space in the Book of Records, it would be a nice opportunity to encourage JJ to do something stunning with her ability on the tightrope. This is especially so if JJ herself is the one who initiates the feat.

Imagine that JJ comes up to me one day and says that she wants to perform a tightrope act between the 11th floor of Wisma Jubilee and Wisma Great Eastern Life across the Gaya Street, and without any safety net at the bottom! I think that would be quite an achievement if she can pull it off—I mean really a great achievement to be proud of, as opposed to those other so-called achievements like writing the longest poetry or collecting the largest number of soft drinks cans (yes, folks, Malaysians are very funny people!)

But the trouble with the feat that JJ is proposing is that there is no room for mistakes. For one small mistake would mean she'd probably fall to her death. However, bear in mind that my JJ is extremely good with her balance—so much so that it is highly unlikely that she'd fall.

What do you think; should I allow JJ do the tightrope stunt? Although she's just 7 years old, she really knows what she's doing. She's an extraordinary kid, I tell you!

No? OK, how about if she's a little older; say if she's 12 years old? By that age, she would've had many more years of practice to perfect her balance skills on the rope. As a parent, should I allow her to perform her act? Of course if she makes a mistake she would still fall to her death at that age.

Now let's add a few more years; say if she's 16 years old. By then she'd have many more years of training on the tightrope, she can probably sleep on the rope. Should I have faith in her ability? One can say that there is a 99% chance of her pulling it off. But unfortunately, there is still that 1% chance of failing. Meaning that there's a 1% chance of her losing her life attempting the record.

The truth of the matter is that even a seemingly gifted child can make mistakes. In fact, he or she can keep repeating those mistakes one after another. Take this girl for example. She's supposed to be gifted, a prodigy, in her game. Yet, since turning pro a few years ago, she's been making the headlines mainly because of her blunders, not so much because of her brilliancy in the game! We are after all just human—we are not immune from making mistakes. However, the kind of mistakes she makes will not likely cause her death. So I guess her parents would keep allowing her to do her thing.

I think I would allow my child to try new things or learn new skills. I would encourage her to make the best of her potentials, but only for as long as she's within reasonable safety while pursuing her dreams. I would not allow her to perform the tightrope act described above—not in a million years, no matter how much training she's had! Well, I suppose once she's an adult, I can no longer control her life, but not for as long as she's still a minor, that's for sure! I think it's just not worth it to bet her life for the pathetic record.

That is why I think this girl would be very disappointed if she had a father like me.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Energizer Night Race

What an anti-climax—a few weeks' worth of training ended up in a big disappointment for me. I ran what turned out to be a very tough half marathon for me at the Energizer Night Race in Cyberjaya last night. I did it in 2:05, which is a painful 5 minutes outside my sub-2-hour target.

It was a night of disbelief at the Energizer Night Race. The next time anyone says Cyberjaya is a flat ground, don't you believe it! The first 2 kilometres into the race, my quads were already burning up because of the slopes. And those of you who've been following this blog, you would know my weakness when it comes to the slopes. Thankfully, however, at least the slopes were not as terrible as those in the Pacesetters New Balance 30KM I joined earlier this year.

The slopes were not the only thing I don't believe. Although a friend, C P Tan a.k.a. blaze, said that his GPS registered an accurate 21.1km (official distance of a half marathon) there are many others who measured the distance as at least several hundred metres more than that. Personally, I'm inclined to believe that the distance was longer than 21.1km. I passed the 11km mark at exactly 1 hour. And I reached the 15km marker, which was at a drink station, at 1:22. But beyond that point I slowed down slightly and actually walked several times for very short distances for a few seconds each time. But I don't believe that I slowed down to the extent of over 40 minutes for 6km to the finish line. Maybe that 15km marker was wrongly positioned. Either that or the total distance was longer than what it should have been; or it could have been both the marker and the distance. As I said, it was a night of disbelief.

On the other hand, based on a conversation I had with a full marathoner at the finish line, he said he couldn't believe that the distance for the full marathon was accurate. He said he ran the first half of his event too fast and then had to pay dearly during the second half, to the extent of having to walk several times. He expected to be some minutes adrift of his usual marathon time, yet he arrived with a 2-minute improvement. He said it did not feel like 42km!

All 3 of us from KK opted for the half marathon event in the Energizer Night Race. And both Kevin and I failed to achieve our respective targets. Kevin, having achieved a personal best of 1:42 during training, did it in 1:52 in Cyberjaya. He was trying to achieve a 100-minute half marathon (1:40), but instead of shedding that 2 minutes, he gained 10 minutes! At any rate, since this was his first "official" half marathon, it was his personal best! Having seen Kevin run in Likas so many times before, I know for certain he can do better than a 1:52 for half marathon, so I think he should make it a point to prove himself soon. As mentioned earlier, I was adrift by a margin of 5 minutes off my target. The only winner for the night was Teo who achieved his target with the luxury of more than 10 minutes to spare!

Both Kevin and I agreed that Teo is wasting his time being an engineer. He should've been either a lawyer or a politician. The time limit for the half marathon was 3 hours, and he set his target at 2:59. He crossed the finish line, I think, in about 2:47, plenty of time to smile broadly for the camera. Of course I was complaining that Teo did not set a realistic target for himself. He did the half marathon in Penang last November in 2:28, yet he set his target this time at 2:59. He's the kind of trapeze artist who'd set several layers of safety nets at the bottom before starting his act, you see. And before the race, we were saying to him that he must make sure he'd finish the race, otherwise he'd go home empty handed and a failure! To this, he answered that as far as he's concerned, the mere fact that he actually got to the start line already made him a winner! Now can anyone tell me why Teo shouldn't be running for one of those top posts in the MCA elections!

Anyway, coming back to the race, I must say that I was a bit disappointed, too, that there were simply insufficient KM markers. I think those folks from the organiser should run the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon one of these days and see how huge and clear and many those KM markers they have in their races.

Apart from KM markers, there were hardly anything to indicate the respective routes for the several events that night. I'm aware of the full marathon, the half marathon, the 10km, and a relay event. And all of them were criss-crossing that same huge area in the dark of the night. So it was a bit confusing to see runners running in the opposite direction, or other directions, not to mention those 10k racers who eventually merged with the half marathon racers.

Well, not that I am likely to join this race again in the future, but perhaps the organiser can think of a more systematic way to spare the runners from such confusions. It's not very amusing to get confused when one is already exhausted—it's not very pleasant to run in doubt of whether one is running in the right direction. Maybe the few marshals along the routes could have been a bit more helpful if they knew what they're doing.

Another important aspect the organiser had failed to take into account was that quite a number of runners were not from Cyberjaya. So it was quite a challenge to find their way to the start line; where to park etc. Maybe if they had clearer instructions, or perhaps more road signs etc, runners are better able to find their way to the place where there were supposed to have been shuttle buses to get to the start line. Can anyone of you there last night tell me if you saw shuttle buses around? To be quite honest, I didn't.

An interesting conversation took place in the car on our way back to the hotel. Teo was saying that he will only continue running for the next 2 years. After that he said he will move on to other "milder" sports. And then as if suddenly struck by an afterthought, he mentioned the sport of curling. Curling? What the hell is curling? Those of you who don't know it, here's some information from Wikipedia. And for those of you who would like to see the actual game in progress, here's something from youtube. Teo is particularly interested to become the sweeper. I said to him that's a brilliant idea! Since curling is practically an unknown sport in Malaysia, he can be the first sweeper to represent Malaysia in the Olympics! And if by a stroke of miracle, he can bring home a gold medal, he can even be bestowed with a Datukship without having to pay RM300,000 for it! You can't get any better deal than that! I don't know why Kevin's mom was laughing so hard up to the point of having difficulty driving the car?

Well anyway, that sort of concludes my rantings for the Energizer Night Race. Now I will have to rest and then start training again next Tuesday for the gruesome full marathon on 2nd May in the Borneo International Marathon here in KK! In the mean time, some of you who know me well, would also know that because of my failure this time, I will be keeping an eye open for any half marathons within the next few months prior to the Penang Bridge International Marathon in November where I will again run the full marathon.


Update: (29 March 2010) (Special thanks to Kevin's mom for being the official photographer of the evening)

Shortly after our arrival at the car park of the race venue. Teo, as you can see, is showing a thumb up and very pleased with the fact that he made it to this event after all.

And this is another shot of Teo and his knee straps all ready on both legs. Notice the banana and Livita nearby. When talking about preparation, Teo is da man! He came prepared with a variety of energy bars, energy gels, several cans of energy-boosting drinks, bananas, knee straps, deep-heating lotions to numb the muscles, his high-tech Sony earphones for the music. It's like he was moving house!

Not exactly an advertisement for Nike, but Teo and I had the LunarTrainer, and Kevin had the LunarGlide. Those thin strips of orange-coloured thing on our shoes are the new disposable timing "chip" used for the race.

Trying on the headlights provided by the organiser. But they proved to be quite uncomfortable and all of us decided not to put them on in the end. By this time, it was fast getting dark.

A few minutes before the flag off, Kevin and I were waiting for Teo while he made a quick visit to the toilet.

A quick photo with the mascot of this race. Teo is all pumped up for the race. He seemed to have forgotten all about his knee problems.

After finishing the race, we posed with the medals just before heading back to the car. Oh by the way, Two had his new pair of tights worth over RM200 which he bought at the exhibition hall in Melia Hotel. I think he did so well mainly because of his new tights.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Decisions at Crossroads

Will be leaving for the airport shortly, so I'm afraid this won't be the usual long-winded post from me. Tomorrow will be the race, and as of Wednesday I still didn't feel that I had it in me to run the 21km in under 2 hours. But I'm sure as hell gonna try to!

Anyway, just glancing through the Star Online this morning, I read with interest this article, of a lonely man, GRACIOUS, who raised this question:

If all women only seek the best men, where would all the second or third-rate men turn to if not prostitutes?

I find it interesting that, knowing that prostitution is illegal in Malaysia, he "would rather have a brush with the authorities and meet my fate."

I'm thinking that GRACIOUS would be happy to know that most of the time, only the prostitutes will get into trouble, but hardly ever their customers. I don't know why that is so. However, perhaps GRACIOUS should also know that apart from "have a brush with the authorities" he is also inviting some dreadful life-threatening diseases.

GRACIOUS' kind of cure for the loneliness he's experiencing is not a real cure, for it is very, very temporary in nature; yet the potential damage could be permanent and terminal. But of course to some people, it's worth it!

Maybe because of the risks of diseases involved in going to the prostitutes, that can explain why this fellow did what he did, if only to kill his boredom and loneliness, I don't know. Skxawng!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Art of Imparting Knowledge

I'm guessing he must be a biology teacher, trying a bit too hard to demonstrate some finer points about the human reproductive system.

But then again, I wonder how he taught his male students.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Expensive Dreams

If I’m not mistaken, it must have been almost 30 years ago when the then American President, Ronald Reagan, delivered a speech on the so-called Star Wars Program. I can’t really remember what that program was all about—I believe it had something to do with spending billions upon billions of the taxpayers’ money to develop some sort of high-tech defence system against nuclear attacks. However, it wasn’t the “star wars” thing that caught my attention; rather, it was a small part of Reagan’s speech that has found its permanent place in my brain.

Many Americans were against the idea of spending so much of the taxpayers’ money on something as ambitious as the Star Wars Program. Many of them questioned the President, “Can we really afford this?”

Although I can’t remember his entire speech in verbatim, I can more or less remember the President’s reply to that one question. He answered it by asking a question of his own: “Can the United States of America afford to dream?”, or something like that. And that response was met with a resounding applause from his audience.

Most people have big dreams. Not all of them will achieve those dreams though. But the point is that ambitions and big dreams can help in making us strive harder; they bring out the best in us.

Having said that, however, there will be costs involved—lots of sacrifices, time, hard work, and of course monetary costs too. And it’s the latter element that is always the most difficult to overcome.

Dad, too, has been having big dreams all these years. He speaks of lucrative awe-inspiring projects and investments all the time. Some of the highlights of his so-called projects have been logging and timber, oil palm plantations of numerous scales, deep sea fishing etc. Whatever business ventures you can think of, it is likely that dad had tried them all over the last 25 years—and failed. From the top of my head, the only venture that he has succeeded in, so far, is the business of making babies. Right now, he is into land brokering and should soon earn his RM1.2 million commissions.

If dad is happy pursuing his dreams, I suppose I should be happy for him too. However, over the years his dreams have been burning big holes in my pocket. Like Reagan, dad is pursuing his dreams at the expense of others.

Now, for the most part of my working life, I’ve been a fixed-income earner. So when in due course I received phone calls from dad, asking for a few thousand bucks each time, for his business ventures, I simply cringed with pain. I would be like, “Yeah sure, hold on a second, dad, let me just pull it out of my hat for you.”

A few days ago, I found out that dad’s problem with diabetes had worsened, and he is now required to take daily insulin jabs. The insulin tablets he’s been taking on and off for some years now can no longer help. It means additional maintenance cost—apart from his cigarettes, of course.

In the twilight of his life, dad is still actively pursuing his expensive dreams. Remembering Reagan and his famous speech, I’m just thinking:

Can dad still afford to dream?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Energizer Night Race—Tapering

I have begun to taper for the half marathon next Saturday, 27 March, i.e. Energizer Night Race in Cyberjaya. Last Sunday, I did a mild 20km run at Likas jogging track. This week I have done 8km, 7km and 6km on Tuesday, Wednesday and this evening respectively. Then a scheduled 12km this Sunday morning to be followed by a leisurely 5km, 3km and 3km next week. I hope to have fully replenished my energy by next Saturday evening.

Teo and Kevin will also be there for the half marathon. I heard that Kevin is trying to achieve a 1:45, and I think he will be able to do it. As for Teo... oh well, what can I say about Teo—I just hope to see him at the starting line next week! He's been complaining about his knees all the while, and it's a bit difficult not to notice his heavily-strapped knees when we met him in Likas last Sunday. But the week before that, I heard he joined the rest of our running buddies for the so-called Sunset Run in Tanjung Aru, of which they retired to a beer-drinking session immediately after the run. Andrew came up with the novel idea of "alcoholic rehydration", you see. According to Kevin who was also there, Teo drank much faster than he ran. So I told Kevin to ask his mother to wait for Teo at the finish line in Cyberjaya next week, dangling a Chivas. Maybe that can sort of motivate Teo to finish his race.

Unfortunately, Teo has now readjusted his target. He said because of his condition, he's now targeting a 2:59 for the half marathon. I think that's a bit of an exageration, but for the moment we would be happy if he could just get his butt to the starting line.

I'm afraid we won't be running abreast in Cyberjaya. Kevin runs too fast. I'll be struggling to achieve a sub 2-hour half marathon. And Teo... well, let's just hope he will be there.

This lately I get to run together with Dr Peter in Likas, usually in the evenings. But I find that he runs a bit faster than me, and quite often I have to struggle to keep up with him. Maybe that is not such a bad thing. It's kinda force me to run faster, which is just what I need for the Cyberjaya race.

I was asked by a friend if running a marathon is boring. That is of course a logical question, especially for me, because I need between 4.5hours to 5 hours to complete a marathon. That's a long time to run. But quite frankly, I do not feel the boredom at all when I run marathons. In fact, I usually feel excited since I always try very hard to improve on my time.

That said, however, running during training sessions can be quite a different story. Boredom can very quickly set in after only several kilometres, and sometimes it's the boredom that will make me stop running sooner than planned, as opposed to the exhaustion.

And so one will have to be creative in overcoming the boredom. At times, when I'm lucky, I would find a friend or two at the track. For example, if I can run together with Dr Peter, that's great. We can chit-chat while we run, and the kilometres can quickly pass. But when I can find no running buddies, then how would I kill the boredom?

Luckily I have an imaginative mind, and I can always use the time to think. Yes, just think—some of the things that I see or read from the papers. It pays to have a curious mind, you know. In fact, that's how I can end up writing a hell lot of rubbish in this blog!

And so, I would run, and in my mind, I would think of something like "Am I the only one noticing the First Lady growing fat by the day?"—or something like that. And I just build from there. A bit about treasure hunts; a bit about work; a bit about religions, and all the little mysteries of this world. And the next thing I know, the run is over!

Thankfully, my runs between now and the Cyberjaya race would be short ones, so no need to think so much. Ultimately, the excitement is mounting; I hope to achieve my target. My personal best for the half marathon so far is 2:03. Hopefully, if I can't go below 2 hours, I can at least improve on that 2:03. One thing is certain—I will have many pacers in Cyberjaya, so I don't have to keep my mind occupied with the First Lady.

KK Challenge 6—Announcement

I meant to make this announcement much earlier than this, but I've been quite busy. This week has been hell, I tell you!

On Monday, our case was up in the Appellate Court. Losing that case would have meant some years of suffering on our part. The Appellant was claiming a very substantial sum! But on the facts of the case, as well as in the hands of a reputable legal team, the panel of 3 judges found in our favour. And that's a big relief.

Then today I had to appear in the High Court as an Assessor for a land dispute. In the end, I will have to appear again on 6 May. But as usual, it took quite a lot of time and effort for the preparation.

But anyway, here I am—and it's about time too!—making this announcement for my KK Challenge 6 which will be held on 18 April 2010. I have, however, posted a link on my sidebar since a few days ago wherefrom one is able to download the Entry Form. Although several teams have said that they will be joining this hunt, I have only managed to assemble 10 confirmed teams so far.

I'd like to mention here that a team of master hunters from KL will be joining this hunt. They will be coming to KK for a short holiday around that time, and decided to join my hunt "for the fun of it", whatever that means. As I have said before, I usually design my hunt in such a way to allow most of the new teams to pass with at least 50% on the score; but I will also try to provide a bit of challenge for the strong teams as well. Well, OK, maybe a bit more than just "a bit"! Will the KL masters be able to get perfect score this time? I wonder! I'd like to think that even if they can achieve the perfect score in the end, they will have to work very hard to earn it! But we'll see how it goes.

Frankly, I haven't fully decided on the hunt route and the number of questions etc, but it is certain that I will throw in some of my "entertaining questions" to tease the stronger teams. Of course this is all a matter of opinion, but I've been told a couple of times that I'm bound to have some "entertaining questions", one way or another, in all my hunts anyway! (smile)

To the new teams, may I suggest that you try out my hunt as it is a very good learning opportunity. Most of the top 10 winners in the recent KK City Tourism Hunt are regular faces in my hunts, so let me boast here that the results speak for themselves! So I hope to see your participation soon!

Let's all have a ball on 18 April!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Quantity vs Quality

I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint some of you—no, folks, this has nothing to do with sex.

My nephew went to Maktab Rendah Sains MARA, Kota Kinabalu when he was in Forms 1 and 2. But this year he has been relocated to KK High School. The former is a boarding school, of which parents are only allowed to come visit their children over the weekends or public holidays. The latter, on the other hand, is a typical school where children go for classes for about half a day only, except of course for extra-curricular activites after school hours.

The Maktab Rendah Sains MARA (MRSM) is found in almost all the states in Malaysia. According to this (Malay) Wikipedia, the philosophy of MRSM is:

"Berdasarkan kepada Falsafah Pendidikan Kebangsaan, kami percaya bahawa pendidikan adalah suatu kewajipan dan komitmen yang berterusan, dinamik dan saintifik untuk mempertingkatkan kualiti dan kerbergunaan manusia kepada diri sendiri, masyarakat dan negara. Kami juga yakin bahawa sekolah yang berkualiti dan cemerlang, sentiasa peka dan komited kepada usaha-usaha meningkatkan kualiti, produktiviti, kecemerlangan, penyuburan, pengembangan potensi, kepimpinan dan kreativiti. Di samping itu, setiap pelajar adalah unik, istimewa dan berpotensi tinggi untuk terus maju dalam mencipta kecemerlangan."

For the benefit of the non-Malay-speaking readers, here is my own translation of the above:

In accordance with the National Education Philosophy, we believe that education is a continuous obligation and commitment, dynamic and scientific, to enhance the quality and usefulness in human resources for themselves, soceity and the nation. We are also confident that the school that has quality and excellence, is always sensitive and committed to endevours in improving quality, productivity, excellence, prosperity, potential growth, leadership and creativity. Apart from that, each student is unique, special and has high potential to continuously progress in inventing excellence.

Plenty of big catchy words in the above paragraph!

I recently had the opportunity to chit-chat with my brother about the MRSM (obviously this is referring to the one in Kinarut, which his son went to; and not the rest of the MRSMs in the other parts of Malaysia.)

Well, my brother had mostly good things to say about how the kids are made to obey a strict schedule of class attendance, revisions, extra-curricular activities etc. It sounds very much like these kids are being trained to enter the police force, except, of course, excluding that part about cowardly shooting and then blowing up innocent people with the C4 explosives.

Apparently, the MRSM is also far ahead of the typical school in terms of covering the syllabuses of our education system. An example quoted by my nephew was that what he's learning now in KK High School has been taught half a year ago when he was still in MRSM.

Just a bit about the eligibility for entrance into the MRSM. Firstly, of course, it's meant for the Bumiputera. Secondly, only the best of the best can enter. In other words that's like saying only the straight As Bumiputera kids can enter. Thirdly, priority is given to kids from poor background. It therefore should not come as a surprise that the MRSM very, very rarely doesn't achieve a 100% passing rate in the major exams; and those passes are also mostly very excellent passes—not merely mediocre marginal passes. On the surface of it, I must admit that I'm impressed with the MRSM. I think it has achieved most of those big catchy words in its philosophy above.

But most of my regular readers would know that I'm not overly concerned with excellent grades in exams. Most people would equate quality to excellence in examination results, but all too often those excellent results do not translate into quality human resources in the job market.

I asked my brother about his son's lifestyle in the campus. He gave quite a detailed outline of the time-tables for studies, revisions, group-discussion sessions, assignments upon assignments, extra-curricular activities. And the list goes on and on.

And yet my nephew was miserable staying at the campus. He had to share his room with a few others, and his stuff went missing all the time. Even lockers with locks were forced open. That is almost to be expected from living at the campus. Maybe one of these days the relevant school authorities would make an effort to look into this matter.

Now if by a stroke of miracle these kids grow up to be excellent employees because they've learned all that's required when they're in school—although I seriously doubt it—would they be of any use if they can't be trusted by their employers? Would they then just add to the quantity, but not the quality of the human resources?

Perhaps someone should amend the philosophy of MRSM a bit so that somewhere in between those big catchy words, an additional word, i.e. honesty, could find its rightful place.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Writing a Short Essay

About a week ago I received an email from Andrew Voon. He is the organiser of the Borneo International Marathon, and also an occasional running buddy of mine at the Likas jogging track. In his email, which he sent out to some of us frequent runners, he sought our contributions in terms of short essays meant for an article to be published in the local papers in a couple of weeks' time.

He suggested an essay of 100 - 150 words max, on why we run marathons, half marathons and 10km etc. He went on to suggest some guidelines such as why we started running; what motivates us; how long and how frequently we run etc.

When I read Andrew's email, I thought that's a brilliant idea, and I would not hesitate to write something up for the sake of attracting more people to take up running. After all, running is a healthy hobby and doesn't really depend so much on others to perform. One can run almost anywhere and anytime.

And so I embarked on writing my essay...

And then, to my horror, I found that I had to struggle to keep my essay within the 150-word limit!

I remember when I was still in school about a hundred years ago, I absolutely hated writing English essays. I had to spend something like the entire day to write a single paragraph, let alone 150 words!

It's quite funny that these days it's quite the opposite! Whenever I write—especially when it involves sharing my opinions with my readers—I can very easily become long-winded. It is very rare that I have nothing to say! Quite on the contrary, I have to suppress my inclinations in order to limit the length of my essays.

A friend who's been a regular reader of this blog wrote to me and expressed her admiration for my regular postings, and then asked me where I got my ideas from. I told her quite truthfully that I don't really plan very much beforehand what to write, and how to write. I just keep stumbling upon interesting issues every now and then; and then I just put my fingers to the keyboard, and the rest just happens almost automatically.

Anyway, coming back to the short essay on running, I'm glad to say that I finally sent Andrew something yesterday. But I'm afraid I wasn't very successful in keeping within the 150-word limit, though I have at least tried my best to get very close. I hope the editor has the staying power to read my article to the finish.

This evening, I bumped into Dr Peter, Dr Liaw and Dr Felice at the jogging track. At the end of the run, we got to talk about the essay. And I said to them that I had to struggle to keep my essay short. And then Peter said something amusing—he said maybe I'm getting long-winded. I responded in the affirmative, and then added that I must be getting old.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Scientific Riddles

JJ had just survived her first term exams last week. About a week prior to the exams, mother and daughter worked very hard. Today, JJ received some of her exam papers. She did quite well in some of the subjects, but sadly, she didn't do too well in some papers.

I was, however, happy to note that she got 89% for her science exam. That is quite a big thing for a 7-year-old kid. I can imagine that some of the parents would not be happy with anything below 95%, but I'm easily satisfied. These grades don't really mean much as far as I am concerned. Of course if my JJ is fated to become the best student in her school some day, I would be very pleased. But if she ends up somewhere in the middle of the pack, I'd be satisfied anyway. After all, too many young people with excellent diplomas and university degrees can't do very much in the real world these days.

Out of curiosity, I glanced through JJ's science papers. And I couldn't help but smiled to myself when I see the kind of questions they set for science these days—most of them look very much like riddles to me; not very scientific. But I will let you judge for yourselves.

Consider the above riddle. The picture shows 2 slices of fish, the thigh of a large animal, and a spring chicken. And the question asks: The picture above shows the food that__________.

The kids had 3 choices: A) Helps us grow, B) Gives us energy, and C) Helps us stay healthy.

Maybe some of my readers are doctors or at least nutritionists. Perhaps they can help us out with this scientific riddle. It seems to me that those food can help us grow, can give us energy, as well as can help us stay healthy. Interesting riddle, huh?

Yet another interesting question: Which of the following is not the clothes for a four month old baby?

Option A is a picture of what appears to be a swimming suit. Option B appears to be a pair of socks. Option C appears to be a shirt/dress.

I find this question a bit amusing because I can still remember when JJ was about 4 to 5 months old, we went to Rasa Ria Resort one weekend with Leon and his family. And we put a tiny swimsuit on JJ before bringing her into the pool. I did not know that the swimsuit was not supposed to be worn by a baby that young. I don't know why people make tiny swimsuits.

In my opinion, Malaysia will take many, many generations from now before we can produce our very own Einsteins and Newtons. But I hope I am wrong.

Tiger Show

A very exhausting trip to the Klang Valley over the weekend for the Tiger Show, a belated treasure hunt in conjunction with the Chinese New Year celebration, clerked by none other than Grandmaster Hunter Uncle Cheong Foo Seong.

Perhaps because of my tendency to be brutal in my criticisms on hunt questions/solutions, several people have reminded me over and over again prior to, during, and after the hunt, that this was a "no holds barred" hunt. In other words, anything goes—even if it is a departure from the usual cryptic themes. I suppose that absolutely blocks a major portion of my objections, if any, to the questions in this hunt. However, for the sake of discussion, for whatever it's worth, I'd like to make some passing remarks on some of the clues, if only to mention the interesting style of the Clerk-of-Course (CoC).

As I had expected, there were a couple of "terrifying questions" in this hunt. Elsewhere in this blog, I have discussed at length on past "terrifying questions", but for the benefit of the new hunters who've only recently stumbled upon this blog, I'd like to quickly raise them here again.

Whenever I set hunt questions, while I'm always trying to make my clues interesting and entertaining, I'm always restricted by my sense of fairness. Whatever I do to my clues, I will always try to be fair to the hunters. When word substitutions are involved in the riddles, I usually allow a fair chance by limiting the scope of search.

Consider this question:

Q1) Sarawak and the answer have a note composed to identify an animal.

A decent-looking clue which I immediately saw its worth, i.e. a "terrifying question" of which one should almost know the answer beforehand to actually solve it. In mathematical sense, this clue amounts to no more than an equation comprising too many variables with no known value. It boils down to the requirement of having to find:

1) Sarawak

One has to think whatever that could replace Sarawak, e.g. "Bumi Kenyalang", if one is too ambitious. Or is there an abbreviated version of that word?

2) "the answer"

This particular "variable" is of course found on the signboard within the hunt sector. And there are many signs—it can be any one of those!

3) "a note"

While "note" here can mean musical notes as in "do", "re", "me" etc, it can also refer to the other versions of musical notes, i.e. A, B, C etc.

4) "an animal"

Again, this is referring to one of those thousands of animals in this world. But if that is not hard enough, we are not looking for something "general" like cats and dogs. No—in this case, we are looking for a specific breed of dog!

The only thing that the hunter can be sure of in this clue is that word "composed", which is most likely an anagram indicator. So now we can more or less construct the following equation:

"SARAWAK" + "ANSWER" + "NOTE" -> anagram -> "ANIMAL"

Those elements in the quotes above are all unknowns. In other words, we have no known value at all. Perhaps if one has plenty of time (or willing to sacrifice his time), he will eventually be able to figure out that:

SARAWAK refers to ANITA; and

ANSWER (found on the board) is SL; and

NOTE is A; and

ANIMAL = ALSATIAN (a specific breed of dog).

So that,

ANITA + SL + A -> anagram -> ALSATIAN

I guess for a "no holds barred" hunt, there isn't much I can say about this kind of clue. But for an average hunt, I consider this clue not really meant to be solved, even if the solution is technically correct in the end.

Apart from those "terrifying questions", I also noticed some possible room for improvements in how some of the clues were worded. For instance, check out this clue:

16) Red East example.

Seeing that word "red", is it possible to connect that to China? I've seen some clues set, I believe by Time Out Solutions, which used "red" as the synonym to CHINA. So if viewed from that angle, "Red East example" might fit, say, Taiwan, as in RESTORAN TAIWAN?

But no, of course that's not the answer. This is of course something more fancy, i.e. a double jeopardy riddle where EAST = E, and EXAMPLE = EG (the abbreviation). So that the answer is: SHAKE DEGREE, where "shake" is the anagram indicator, and DEGREE contains the RED, E and EG.

But I don't really like equating EXAMPLE to EG. I still prefer "e.g." = for example.

The one thing that I liked about this hunt was the sufficient time given to the teams to give proper treatment to all the riddles. I think that's very important. In the last tough hunt I joined in KL, i.e. Hunters Challenge, I was somewhat disappointed that we had insufficient time for the level of difficulty. However, as far as the style and quality of the clues, I prefer those in Hunters Challenge anytime of the day.

There were 17 teams hunting in the Tiger Show. After the hunt, and while waiting for the results, both Kah Sing and I agreed that we would fail badly. I remember saying that it would be quite a struggle to even sneak into the top half of the number of teams, i.e. 8th position. So you can just imagine our surprise when we eventually barely crept to 8th. How amusing!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Typhoon—The Aftermath

It's been a little over a week since the typhoon has passed. For a period of almost 3 months, we endured the forces of the turbulence quite admirably, and I'm glad to say that we pretty much survived the trauma—in fact, I dare say we persevered to a marvel!

Mom spent most of the time while she was here in Bridget's apartment, except for a short visit to West Malaysia and to Lahad Datu. Of course she also spent a couple of days each at Evelyn's, Dennis' and my house.

Playing her role as the perfect "life organiser", she very quickly embarked on trying to put right whatever she saw as "not so right" in our respective families. But that is not to say that all the outcomes of her efforts were disastrous. For example, when I accidentally mentioned that I had an annoying mouth ulcer because of heatiness, the next thing I knew was that I had a few gallons' worth of ha fo chao prepared by mom. Although it wasn't my plan to drink such an amount of ha fo chao, and then sufferred diarrhea for a couple of days, at least the damn thing helped in healing my mouth ulcer. So I suppose I shouldn't be complaining.

However, at other times, I didn't really know how to react when mom offered me something to eat or drink. A good example from the top of my head is the forsaken foo chuk, which she made practically everyday. And she made sure that this favourite son would get a huge mug of foo chuk whenever I was around. But it did not end there—she also took the trouble to keep reminding me every couple of minutes to drink that prized foo chuk! Now that mom had left, I swear to god that I won't come anywhere near foo chuk drinks for the whole year ahead.

Before you get the wrong idea, let me hasten to say that mom is not an evil-minded person. Let me reiterate here that she is essentially a kind-hearted woman who's born with that unsuppressable instinct to watch over her children like a hawk, but forgetting that we're all grown-ups now and have chosen our own preferences in life. I would venture to say that she's also trying very hard to control herself from meddling in our business, although she's not always successful in doing so.

Well, obviously a few hundred words in this post will not do justice to the few months of turbulence over Christmas and Chinese New Year, but over all, I'd say that mom did quite well on this visit. Somehow, whether it was directly or indirectly because of her, Dennis and his family boycotted the Chinese New Year Eve dinner this year. It was kinda weird because all of us siblings have been keeping the tradition of the CNY Eve dinner all these years even though some of my them have converted to Islam for over 20 years now.

Mom was obviously disappointed in Dennis' no-show stunt, since it's not always that she can spend Chinese New Year here with us. Even Audrey came all the way from Lahad Datu; and Uncle Tony (mom's younger brother) from Brunei for the dinner. All of us tried to proceed with the dinner and mahjong session as usual, but I knew that Dennis was at the back of everyone's mind that night.

A couple of days after that dinner, perhaps because of guilt, Dennis was all out to remedy the situation. I heard he went to see mom secretly at Evelyn's to explain the boycott thing, and then gave a gift—I believe an expensive jade—which I think was a bit too late in the day. Mom, as expected, wasn't impressed. I heard she was crying, but I really don't know what Dennis said to her. And that is a very big thing! Mom is usually very proud of all her children, and she would not fail to announce to the whole world if she got something like an expensive jade from her son. But not this time.

On the eve of mom's flight home, Dennis made a last bid to earn mom's forgiveness—he brought his whole family to my house where mom was staying. I have been bottling up my frustration over the last week or so. Now I don't normally bother about how the rest in my family lead their lives. It's none of my business, really. It's been years ago since I last gave Dennis any advice. I would only give my opinion when he asked for it. But that night, in front of mom and Uncle Tony, I gave him a piece of my mind. I went on a long lecture for a good hour or so. Dennis listened attentively and would not dare to argue. In the end, I said to him that he needed not follow my advice. It's entirely up to him.

The next morning, Dennis was there again at the airport, and just at the departure gate, while giving mom a big hug, he said to mom, "You do know that I still love you, right?"

Mom gave a short reply, "Yes, I do."

And then mom disappeared into the departure hall...

I heard that Dennis also went to Penampang after leaving the airport to apologise to dad. Apparently, he promised to see to it that he won't ever miss future Chinese New Year Eve dinners. I guess that meant he took my advice after all. I just hope that there is still time for him to attend the next dinner with all of us around.

So that was that, the typhoon has passed, and I guess it's time for the rest of us to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of the turbulence. I must say that I'm quite impressed that only Dennis had a problem this time round. Mom said she will try to come again next year, though not during the Chinese New Year. I wonder who will be affected by the typhoon next.

Keeping my fingers crossed...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

KK City Hunt 2010—Transparency & Gameplay

One of the many aspects of the KK City Tourism Hunt 2010 which was extensively discussed and debated about was the transparency in the point allocation. The organiser did a good job as far as the route questions and treasure clues were concerned. Participants were very clear on how many points would be awarded for each correct answer and treasure. However, the same can't be said about the games.

We had 4 games and a challenge in this hunt. The latter was just a matter of spending the time to go to several places around the city to collect stamps. For as long as those stamps were successfully acquired, one would know that he has achieved full score for that challenge. So there is no problem there, even if the organiser did not reveal how many points allocated for that challenge.

Of the games, we had the forsaken blowpipe, walking and balancing on coconut shells, kite making and flying, and picking soy beans with chopsticks. The first two games were quite straightforward. In the blowpipe challenge, we were given clear explanation what each hit was worth. Same with the coconut shells.

But for the kite making and flying challenge, no one knows how the points were awarded. Teams were supposed to have been judged on 3 elements, i.e. (1) the actual making of the kite (ready-made kites are disqualified), (2) creativity, and (3) the ability to remain airborne for at least 10 seconds. The total score for this challenge, if I'm not wrong was 10 points. I have no idea how many points were allocated for each of these 3 elements.

As for the soy bean challenge, that is even more interesting. A few dry soy beans were mixed together with about half a kilo of red beans in a transparent plastic container. Participants were required to pick only the soy beans using a pair of chopsticks within 60 seconds. The total score for this challenge was 10 points. Again, no one knows how the points were awarded for this challenge. Some of us did ask the question, of course, but all we got was "I don't know, only the CoC knows." We were merely told to pick as many soy beans as possible, don't worry about the score.

Don't worry about the score!? Are you serious!?

In my opinion this was a lousy approach by the Organiser/CoC to protect themselves from possible challenges. Since this was a game of strategy, teams deserved to know how the points were allocated. That can even affect our gameplay. For example, we may decide to make the kite and work on the creativity element, but would not invest in the extra efforts to keep it airborne for 10 seconds if only, say, 1 point is allocated for that last element. We would rather spend the extra 20 minutes to do other tasks for greater rewards.

At the end of the hunt, questions were raised. If one team performed equally well in all the questions and other games against another team, and it boiled down to, say, the kite challenge, would it be logical to assume that the team with the successfully flown kite did better than the team which did not? Would it, then, be logical to assume that the former should reasonably score better than the latter?

These are examples of questions raised by some of the teams after the hunt, because from the little that we know, it seems that the answer to both these questions is "NO". However, we may be wrong. We would therefore appeal to the organiser or the CoC for a clear answer please.


Update (04/03/2010):

I have since received an email from the CoC, explaining the mechanics of point allocations for the 2 Games in question. For the benefit of some of you who've been asking me, please find below herewith the scoring format:

Game 1: Wau! Now everyone can fly! (Maximum 10 points)

Kite Making (Based on Creativity & Effort)

A—7 points

B—5 points

C—3 points

Ability to Fly (Min 10 Seconds)

additional 3 points

Game 2: Picking Up Sticks (Maximum 10 points)

0—3 beans = 4 points

4—8 beans = 6 points

9—14 beans = 8 points

15 beans and more = 10 points

In the case of Game 1 above, the CoC has combined the elements of the actual making of the kite and its creativity, and here there are 3 possibilities, i.e. 7 points (most creative), 5 points (average design), 3 points (least creative).

On its ability to fly, that is a separate thing. Any kite, regardless of its design, for as long as it's able to remain airborne for at least 10 seconds, shall be entitled to 3 points.

In other words, if one is able to make a kite and fly it for at least 10 seconds, he should be able to get a minimum score of 6 points. And of course if his kite can't fly, he can't possibly get more than 7 points for that challenge.

In the case of Game 2, I'm quite OK with the format, except that I think it's rather unfair that 0—3 beans are entitled to 4 points; whereas 4—8 beans are entitled to 6 points. It means that anyone can simply appear at the game station and get no beans at all, and still get 4 points. Yet someone who manages to pick up 8 beans gets 6 points, i.e. a difference of only 2 points for a difference of 8 beans picked!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

KK City Hunt 2010—The Decoy

I am known for my brutal criticisms against many CoCs whenever I see inaccuracies in their hunt questions. I do so even against very close friends. I have always said that there is nothing personal in my criticisms. Whenever I comment in the capacity of a hunt analyst, I try my best to comment from a neutral point of view. In the years past, I have been labelled with quite a number of nicknames, including the famous Kutu King, which actually arose from Kutuk-ing.

I'd like to say that I am obsessed with precision; I'm basically a perfectionist in almost everything I do, and hunt riddles are no exceptions. But that is not to say I'm immune from making mistakes! After all, I am only human. And so, I have had my share of criticisms from hunters too. However, I'd like to think that it's not so easy to find mistakes in my riddles. Whether I am right or wrong, I'll leave it to the many hunters who've joined my hunts to judge.

The CoC of the KK City Tourism Hunt 2010 is of course not new to the business of treasure hunting. In fact, they are easily one of the pioneers in the business, if not the first! I have been in their hunts quite a number of times before and I can almost tell the style of the riddles they come up with.

One interesting feature in their hunt questions is what has come to be known as the "red herring". The clue is set in such a way that makes a particular sign appear to fit perfectly, but yet there's something still unaccounted for. Within the same hunt sector, there is another sign which is a better fit to the clue. The other answer which appears to fit perfectly—but actually not so—is deliberately intended as the red herring or the decoy. It's a very interesting style and can be quite a sweet achievement when the hunter can find the intended answer somehow.

But although the CoC is known for the red herring flair, he is also known for the occasional errors, some of which are mind-boggling! I have seen a question in which the CoC translated the word "HATE" into "DENGKI" in Malay—a translation which would make some of us cringe with pain. And in the preceding post, I have pointed out another error by the CoC.

And that is the reality in treasure hunting—it sometimes depends a lot on luck and a bit of mind-reading ability on the part of the hunter. In the course of hunting in a TOS' hunt, one is bound to come to DENGKI which is most certainly not HATE; or THE GOLD EDITION which does not fit 49TH EDITION. What should be done then?

Knowing the reputation of the CoC with his "red herring" flair, one is very reluctant to accept DENGKI and THE GOLD EDITION. These are answers which may appear close enough, but not quite so. There is always that risk of the CoC surprising the audience with other answers which are "more accurate" for the given clues.

Along the famous Jalan Sulaman, we were up against an interesting question:

Q28) The essence of life with exit end in tie up here to revamp.

I have two things I want to say about this question. But first let's deal with a sign which my team found within that sector:


When we found this sign, we agreed that it could fit the clue quite convincingly. After lingering for a moment, we took this answer and continued with the hunt. The point is 'THE ESSENCE OF LIFE" can fit "SOUL"; and "OUT" can fit "EXIT". This answer looked very promising indeed!

However, at the back of my mind, there was that uneasy feeling of uncertainty. The reason I felt so was because "SOUL OUT" could not explain "end in tie up here to revamp." It's just my nature to be obsessed with precision, you see. After reaching the end station of this hunt, which was quite some distance away, I was still unhappy with "SOUL OUT", so I decided to drive all the way back to Jalan Sulaman to check again. Unfortunately, even on the second visit to the sector, I couldn't spot the intended answer. So I had no choice but to settle with the "SOUL OUT".

And true enough, it was to be revealed later on that there's a sign with "JIWA MOTOR" within that sector. That was the intended answer of the CoC. And the explanation given by the CoC was like this:


EXIT end = T

TIE UP = MOOR (as in tying up a boat)

So now the clue can be simplified to:

JIWA with T in MOOR here to revamp.

Now it is a bit clearer to see the nature of the riddle.

The word "with" tells the hunter that JIWA comes with another word on the signboard.

The word "revamp", the anagram indicator, tells the hunter that T is rearranged together with MOOR to form MOTOR.

And so everything falls into its respective places for a beautiful solution...

Or is it?

I'm not very happy with the extra (redundant) container indicator, i.e. in. I think what really happened was that the CoC was a bit unsure whether to make this a "container" riddle or an "anagram" riddle. As you can probably see, it's also possible to insert T into MOOR by means of the "insertion" operation to form MOTOR. He played around with the words and adjusted them accordingly to create a smoother surface reading. That's why there was the requirement of either the container indicator or the anagram indicator in the clue.

However, when the CoC finally decided on one of those two, he forgot to delete one of those indicators, thus resulting in a sloppy clue not worthy of the high standard expected of a pioneer CoC.

Monday, March 1, 2010

KK City Hunt 2010—Calculation Error

Something the CoC said during the hunt briefing on Saturday afternoon caught my attention. He said it as a passing remark, but I knew immediately it had a special significance to the hunt. He said something about this year's City Hunt as that of the 10th edition. I remember saying to myself that perhaps one of the questions the next day might have something to do with that piece of information.

I looked around and realised that nobody paid any attention to that particular statement. I thought it was a little strange. I meant to comment on it later in this blog, but my mind was occupied by my immediate concerns in terms of the hunt as a whole.

And then, true enough, on the day of the hunt, we had this as the very last question:

Q30) In forty years on, you can call our City Day hunt this.

Upon reading the above question, I immediately remembered what the CoC said the previous day. Which would make the City Day hunt its 50th edition in forty years' time. The next step was of course to think of all the possible answers to connect to "50th". But maybe it's referring to the year also. Therefore, we had to keep our eyes open for 2050. Then we also had to watch out for MML, which is the Roman numeral for 2050.

Incidentally, I was aware of a business named MML Tile Gallery or something like that somewhere along Jalan Bundusan. I could remember that name because I actually used that sign as one of the answers in my own hunt just a few months ago. I thought maybe there's another outlet of that company along this stretch of road. But unfortunately, we could not find MML.

On a second sweeping of that long road, we spotted THE GOLD EDITION on a signboard. But according to Vivian, she saw that board earlier and actually mentioned in. However, I did not hear her somehow.

THE GOLD EDITION obviously fits perfectly to "you can call our City Day hunt" because 10 plus 40 is 50. So we took this answer even though at the back of my mind, it was a wrong answer! The trouble with THE GOLD EDITION is that the CoC made a serious calculation error.

Although 2010 is the 10th anniversary of Kota Kinabalu City, the City Day Hunt only started a year after Kota Kinabalu was declared a city, thus making this year's hunt the 9th edition as opposed to the 10th edition. In 40 years from now, we would be having the 49th edition of the hunt, and not the 50th edition—a tiny detail which rules out THE GOLD EDITION.

Strictly from the technical and factual point of view, this was a serious error on the part of the CoC. Who knows, maybe this very question can be recycled for next year because by then THE GOLD EDITION would be perfect!

KK City Hunt 2010—Neighbours & First Ladies

According to the CoC, he intended the following clue as the toughest for the KK City Tourism Hunt 2010:

Q10) Neighbours indeed. Just like how some refer to the first lady.

As I have mentioned in the preceding post, only Vivian and I handled the walk-hunt for my team. After we have found the answers for the other questions within this sector, Vivian came up to me to seek my opinion on how to crack this clue.

I explained to her that in the cryptic sense, there is a significance to that word "indeed". Basically, it means that a preceding word will have to be inserted into the word "deed" (in-DEED) or its synonyms. And "neighbours" here might be referring to neighbouring letters of the alphabet, e.g. AB, CD, DE etc.

That then was the angle to be analysed. The task therefore was merely to search for any "neighbours" letters that's contained in other words, of which the latter might fit "DEED". Unfortunately, after walking the short hunt sector for almost half an hour, we failed to spot the intended answer. As any hunter would attest to, when in desperation, one would try to "force-fit" anything in sight.

And that's exactly what I did. I chose CHIVAS REGAL which brought a smile to Vivian's face. The reason I chose this answer was because of the "HI" which satisfied the requirement of "neighbours". But CV did not seem to fit DEED. I could live with "LIKE HOW" equated to "AS". Then again, equating "FIRST LADY" to "REGAL" is a bit far-fetched. So although we wrote down that answer, I knew it was not convincing.

Little did we know, somewhere within that sector, there was a small word found on a signboard which was partially hidden under the roof, i.e. the word STUDENT. Notice that "DE" are the "neighbours" as explained above. And STUNT, in a way, is a DEED. So DE inserted into the STUNT can yield STUDENT.

But now we come to an interesting point. What's the story with the second sentence in the clue, i.e. Just like how some refer to the first lady.

According to the CoC, that word "first" is the initial indicator, and the fodder is the word "lady". So taking only the first letter of "lady", we get the single letter "L". After arriving at "L", one is expected to expand the idea a little further. The letter "L" standing on its own is a common abbreviation for LEARNER. For example we can see the "L" (usually red in colour) on a car when it's driven by a person learning to drive. And here LEARNER is supposed to support STUDENT.

So to recap, "the first LADY" = L; and L = LEARNER. Do you follow so far? Capital! we progress!

Nevertheless, upon closer scrutiny, one will see that the solution can't hold water!

although first LADY = L; and L = LEARNER, first LADY is not LEARNER!

This is an error commonly seen in many hunts in KL where CoCs were practically unchallenged in the past. However, about 2 years ago, in an interesting discussion I had had with the late Master Hunter Vincent Woo in the Riddle Raiders blog, we arrived at the conclusion that the above riddle was inaccurate on technical grounds!

According to (the late) Master Vincent Woo—and I agree with him—sometimes CoCs, when setting questions, are too absorbed in setting multiple levels of word substitutions by adopting several synonyms. However, sometimes they forget that after several substitutions and branches from the original word, the meaning of that original word might have changed!

For example:

first LADY => L => FIFTY (Roman numeral) => LIMA PULUH

But first LADY is not LIMA PULUH

And then later on, another Master Hunter under the nickname "renroc" came up with an interesting example to illustrate the point even clearer. For the benefit of the new hunter-readers of this blog, renroc's example was something like this:


and FLOWER in the cryptic sense, is quite frequently equated to RIVER (one that flows).

However, TULIP is not RIVER!


In my opinion, on technical grounds, the second sentence in this clue spoils the beauty of the riddle.